Dallas Wings assistant coach and former WNBA player Crystal Robinson is a basketball stateswoman who has been around the league for practically its entire existence.
Robinson was born in Oklahoma and played basketball for Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She was Southeastern’s first three-time female All-America and holds many of the school’s basketball records. The Oklahoman wrote in 1999 that Robinson is considered by most to be the best basketball player to ever come out of Oklahoma.
In 1996, Robinson was drafted by the Colorado Explosion in the now-defunct American Basketball League (ABL) and promptly won Rookie of the Year and named an All-Star. However, the ABL folded in 1998 and Robinson entered the 1999 WNBA Draft.
The New York Liberty selected Robinson sixth overall in the 1999 Draft and she became an important part of the mini Liberty dynasty. The Liberty made the playoffs every season from 1999-2002 and went to the Finals three times during that period. Robinson played around All-Stars Teresa Weatherspoon, Becky Hammon, Sue Wicks, and Tari Phillips.
Robinson averaged 10.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2 APG, and 1.1 SPG over 30.1 MPG during her eight-year WNBA career. She led the WNBA in three-pointers during the 1999 season while finishing in the top 5 every season from 2001-2003. Robinson is currently 19th all-time in three-pointers made.
After six years with the Liberty, Robinson briefly spent some time with the Washington Mystics before retiring. When Robinson retired, she became an assistant coach for the Mystics.
Robinson told Sports Are From Venus in a media availability about her decision to become a coach after her playing career.
“I never wanted to be anything other than a coach, as a kid. I am very fortunate, very few people can say ‘hey I want to be this’ when they are seven years old and end up actually being that. I got to do something that I wanted to do forever so that’s how I ended up in coaching. I retired at 34 and started coaching early because I knew I wanted to coach one day.”
After spending the 2007-2008 season as an assistant coach for the Mystics, Robinson coached girls basketball at McAlester High School in Oklahoma. From 2010-2013, Robinson was head coach of the girl’s basketball team at Murray State College. Robinson spent the 2013-14 season as an assistant coach for Utah State and the 2014-2015 season with the TCU Horned Frogs.
Robinson spent the 2015-2016 coaching HS basketball in Atoka, Oklahoma, where she grew up. After almost a decade of coaching college and high school, Robinson joined the Seattle Storm in 2018 an assistant coach.
As an assistant coach with the Storm in 2018, Robinson won her first WNBA Finals. After making the Finals three times as a player, she won her first championship 19 years after making her WNBA debut.
Robinson then joined the Dallas Wings coaching staff under head coach Brian Agler in 2019. When Robinson was first hired, Coach Agler said “Crystal knows the game and she knows how to transfer her knowledge of the game to the players. She understands the intangibles that make great players and great teams. She also has a great work ethic and I’m excited to add her to the staff.”
Robinson joined a Wings team that was in the midst of a rebuild. The Wings had just drafted MVP candidate Arike Ogunbowale and added another young piece in Satou Sabally a year later. The Wings are one of the youngest teams in WNBA history, and if anyone can help develop the Wings roster into contention, it is the former player Robinson.
Arike Ogunbowale told Sports Are From Venus about Robinon’s impact on the Wings.
“She helps everybody with everything. She is a great shooting coach, a great basketball coach. She has a great basketball mind. She’s been in our position. She’s played in the WNBA for years, been in WNBA championships, like done all that. She knows basketball, been overseas, so we can relate to her really really well. She loves us, she supports us with everything, always has our back. As I said, she’s one of the smartest basketball minds I’ve known and she’s hilarious, she really helps the team a lot, just her energy and everything she brings to life. We wouldn’t have as much fun if Crystal wasn’t on the coaching staff.”
Fellow Wings coaching staff member Bryce Agler, son of head coach Brian Agler, highlighted what Crystal brings to Dallas with her playing experience.
“She is one of those people that gets along with everybody. She does a really good job of creating a relationship with the players. She knows what they’re going through, she’s been there, she’s been through the league, she’s one of the top players in the league when she was playing. She can relate to both sides, them and us, as coaches, and I think it’s a good happy medium. What she brings to our team, our staff is invaluable. You can’t put a price on it just because she understands these players are young. Sometimes we take for granted when we tell them to do something, they need to be shown how to do things. She understands that because she was at that point at one time, so that helps a lot. She is also a great person as well, on top of that.”
Brian and Bryce Agler, as well as Arike, all mention how Robinson’s experience playing in the WNBA helps the Wings roster. Everything that Robinson has learned, all of that basketball knowledge she has accumulated over the last 25 years is available and transferable to the team. Robinson understands what the players are experiencing in ways that the other coaches who did not play WNBA in the league do not.
Robinson was around the WNBA at it’s youngest, and now after the league has been around for 23 seasons, Robinson has seen it all. Robinson told Sports Are From Venus how the WNBA has changed since she played in the league.
“It’s really funny, me and Tamika Catchings just had this conversation this morning by the pool. I think that the talent level in the WNBA has gotten extremely better than the talent level when we played. There’s definitely an evolution of players in this league. I think that our generation was much tougher. We did things a little bit differently, that was in the era of hard fouls and a lot of hustle. Now, I think the more skilled players get the more the game starts changing and evolving. There are so many things that we did in our era that still make this game. I think you see the top teams have the necessary grit and toughness that it takes to win high at this level and those are some things that we have to adapt those things to our style and our culture and learn to understand how much they help you out.”
A former pro athlete calling the current generation of players soft? Never heard that before!
With Coach Robinson on staff, the Wings have surprised the WNBA as they are in a great position to earn the 8th seed and final playoff spot. Sitting at 7-12, the rebuilding Wings are setting themselves up for a fruitful future, one that Coach Robinson will help mold into success.
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